Generosity fuels new generator
In the Food Bank’s first year of operation, way back in 1981, we distributed 7,000 pounds of food in our most successful month. Lately, we send out double that amount every hour–from our main warehouse alone! But until now, it could all have ended suddenly with a power outage. Our operations depended on the electric company, just as much as the light bulbs in your house do.

For years, we feared the repercussions that power outages could have on the tons of perishable products in our industrial freezers and coolers. So we made plans and raised funds to acquire a generator. But as we neared our goal in fall 2011, the power went out.

A power outage at the Food Bank turns day into night. All of the lights in the enclosed warehouse go out. The day’s business slows to a crawl – or halts entirely. Phone service and computerized record-keeping are disrupted. Lift-trucks go uncharged. Overhead dock doors can be opened only by hand, if at all.

The normally noisy cooling apparatus that maintains safe temperatures in the Food Bank’s 46,550-cubic-foot freezer and 39,200-cubic-foot cooler falls silent. Future distribution is affected, too: During power outages, agencies can’t place or update orders online. Worst of all, the vulnerable families they serve can go hungry.

Fortunately, the fall 2011 outage is the last one we’ll ever experience at our main warehouse. In January, we purchased a six-cylinder, 200-kilowatt electric generator, which was installed on February 1, 2012. During a blackout, it could supply the warehouse with 100% of its usual power level for 24 hours, 75% power for 32 hours or 50% power for 46 hours.

The generator was funded largely by a gift from a private individual, facilitated by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Other major contributors to this project included the Baldwin Foundation and the Fremont Area Community Foundation, both long-time supporters of the Food Bank. Buist Electric Company of Byron Center donated its time and labor to install the equipment.

Thanks to these supporters, the next time our neighborhood loses power, distribution won’t be interrupted, products won’t spoil and agencies won’t see their vital food supplies interrupted.